Facts about the No Child Left Behind Act by U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof
May 2004 Columbia Business Times
The No Child Left Behind Act was a reauthorization of the federal government's elementary and secondary education programs. Reauthorization bills provide the opportunity to reform existing federal programs, as was the case with the No Child Left Behind Act. When Congress passed this legislation in December 2001, we set spending limits, just as we do with every major authorization bill.
Recently, I invited U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige to Columbia to attend a forum on the No Child Left Behind Act. As the provisions of this milestone bill have been implemented, I have received a tremendous amount of feedback from parents, teachers and administrators. In response, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the nation's highest-ranking education official to town to hear these concerns. I also viewed this as an opportunity to show the Secretary of Education what we are doing right in mid-Missouri.
Early in Dr. Paige's visit, it became evident that the Secretary was eager to address the concerns of critics who claimed that the education reform bill has not been properly funded.
The No Child Left Behind Act was a reauthorization of the federal government's elementary and secondary education programs. Reauthorization bills provide the opportunity to reform existing federal programs, as was the case with the No Child Left Behind Act. When Congress passed this legislation in December 2001, we set spending limits, just as we do with every major authorization bill. These caps are not an absolute dictate of future spending. They are limits, usually set relatively high, on how much Congress can spend on a particular piece of legislation. Republicans and Democrats agreed to these caps, which are necessary for budgeting purposes.
Think of the caps as the spending limit on your credit card. You could spend that much, but it certainly doesn't mean that you're obligated to do so.
Congress did, however, make a bipartisan promise that a significant increase in the federal resources available for education would accompany enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. We have kept this promise.
The education spending measure passed by Congress in January marked the third consecutive major increase in education funding since the No Child Left Behind Act became law. In this fiscal year alone, funding for the Department of Education - including funding for critical programs under the new education reform measure - increased by $2.9 billion to a total of over $55 billion.
The very first year of the No Child Left Behind Act, federal education funding was increased by $7.7 billion. Last year, $1.3 billion in additional resources were dedicated for the education of disadvantaged children. This was on top of the $1.6 billion increase for these programs provided in 2002. And under the President's most recent budget request to Congress, federal education would increase by 36% since the President took office in January of 2001.
In light of these facts, it is clear that the promise of additional federal resources for education that accompanied passage of the No Child Left Behind Act has been fulfilled. The question then becomes - what are we getting for our money? At our forum, Dr. Paige had a revealing graph that addressed this very subject. It plotted the increased spending by the federal government over the past several years alongside the academic performance of our students during the same period of time. The staggering increase in expenditures created one steady upward slope to the top of the chart. The academic performance line was stagnant.
I am hopeful that the reforms in the No Child Left Behind Act will get the academic performance line on Secretary Paige's chart moving in the right direction. More importantly, it is my hope that the accountability in this reform bill will give our children the hope and opportunity that comes with a quality education.